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Legal Status Verses Path To Citizenship

Legal Status Verses Path To Citizenship

The Debate on Immigration Reform: Legal Status Verses Path to Citizenship

If you have been keeping up with the news on immigration reform, you must have heard the terms “legal status” and “path to citizenship.” You may have wondered what the fundamental differences between the two are and how these will affect immigrants. Below are some explanations that may bring some clarity upon the differences.

Legal Status

According to Doris Meissner, director of the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank that studies global migration, gaining legal status would likely mean three things for people now living in the United States illegally.

  1. Elimination of Deportation. So long as they are law-biding citizens, they would no longer be subject to deportation. This means that they cannot be deported merely for being here illegally.
  2. Employment Eligibility. They would be authorized to work. This means that they can hold jobs and pay taxes like American citizens.
  3. Travel Privileges. They would have the ability to travel in and out of the United States. At least 60 percent of the illegal population has been in the United States for more than 10 years, and have been unable to return to their home countries.

Those in support of legal status want immigrants to meet a set of certain conditions to qualify for legal status. These conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • Admitting they entered the country illegally;
  • Passing background checks;
  • Paying fines and back taxes; and
  • Becoming proficient in English and American civics.


Currently, the bill in the U.S. calls for a 13-year “path to citizenship” for illegal immigrants to become naturalized citizens. As naturalized citizens, they would be eligible to receive government benefits. For instance a naturalized citizen would be eligible for:

  • Unemployment insurance;
  • Social Security benefits;
  • Voting rights;
  • Bringing family members into the country; and
  • No deportation if they commit a crime.

None of the privileges granted through citizenship would apply to people who only have legal status.

If you have questions about these differences or need to find out how immigration reform may impact you or your loved ones, please contact The Law Offices of Azita M. Mojarad, P.C.


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